CARBON, Texas?Some Texans had a disastrous start to the New Year as wildfires raged across the state, damaging towns such as Nocona, Ringgold, Cross Plains and Carbon.
Since Dec. 26, aircraft have flown numerous missions and dropped thousands of pounds of fire retardant in potentially hazardous areas. There have been more than 400 fires since the day after Christmas, burning over 250,000 acres and destroying 339 homes.
One of those demolished homes belonged to Jody Forbus, pastor of an SBTC church, Carbon
Community Baptist in Carbon, about 140 miles southwest of Fort Worth in Eastland County.
Forbus told the TEXAN the members of Carbon Community stepped outside after their Sunday church service Jan. 1 to find a billow of smoke swirling up toward the sky in the distance. But they weren’t taken completely by surprise, because the town of Carbon had been on alert after hearing about the wildfire destruction of nearby Cross Plains.
“We had some friends coming over after church,” Forbus said. “But we decided to go and check on some of our members first. The local fire department told us this was a monstrous fire and it had already taken a couple of homes. So we began to help unload some things from our member’s home.”
The Forbus family headed back to their own home briefly to water the yard and grab a few articles of clothing and some pictures hanging in the hallway, but didn’t think they were in the path of danger yet.
They ventured back out to help friends and neighbors remove their belongings so they could flee, but Forbus soon realized that he and his family were in trouble. Unfortunately, the wind shifted and when they arrived at their house (after taking the long way around), it was too late. Their house was in flames.
“We had just finished an extensive remodel of our home,” Forbus said. “The devastation came from the memories that we lost?the small things you don’t think of?the things our children made us and stuff like that.”
Nevertheless, Forbus said his hope lies in the Lord. “I really think the big thing the Lord has taught me is humility. I am so used to being a pastor by responding to others’ needs and a servant ? that it’s hard to be on the receiving end of that. This has really been a humbling experience for (my family).”
Forbus, his wife, and three children have received gifts, food, clothes, money and furniture from their church, the local community, people across Texas, and the SBTC. “Everyone has been so gracious and we are very blessed,” Forbus said.
Just a week after he lost his home and all his belongings, this small-town pastor stood in the pulpit and preached hope.
“I tried to answer their one question?’Why?’ I brought a message on how alone Jesus felt on the cross and just as he asked ‘Why?’ it’s OK for us to ask ‘why?’ as long as we don’t live in despair,” Forbus said.
Out of the 45 homes destroyed in Carbon, six of those families were members of Carbon Community Baptist Church. And each family from the church has been ministered to tremendously, Forbus said.
Local and state authorities, as well as Southern Baptists across Texas are helping the victims of this tragedy.
Deron Biles, Minister/Church Relations Director, said, “I am aware of several areas where the SBTC has been able to assist churches that have been affected by the wildfires.”
Also, Biles said several people have been helped with funds and have been ministered to by the SBTC.
“Also ? T.C. Melton (SBTC West Texas area director) and Robby Partain (SBTC missions director) met with some of the leaders of Cross Timbers Association and were able to secure hay for the cattle from many areas across the state and a number of deep freezers to store food,” he said.
An outpouring of help has come from various sources. Al Ritson, the director of Salvation Army disaster relief in Texas, sent supplies to areas most damaged by the wildfires.
“What we’ve done to help Baptists ? is simply supply what they’ve needed?water, food, clothing, and other things,” Ritson said. “We sent in a 53-foot tractor trailer. Basically ? if they ask for it, we’ll send it. We want to help.”
In addition, Joe Woods, SBTC Cowboy Church coordinator, rounded up help from cowboy churches all across Texas.
“I got on the phone and started calling up cowboy churches in our network,” Woods said. “All these guys just started jumping in and we’re putting the word out that these people need help.”
Several pastors of SBTC cowboy churches have even gone so far as going to local radio stations to inform the public of the fire victims’ needs. Woods and his crew are focusing on providing hay to farmers who have either lost their entire farms or their crops, which is their livelihood.
“My worry is that because there is shortage of hay, these (farmers) are going to be forced to sell their cattle,” Woods said. “We’re doing all we can for them. We’re even looking outside of Texas to provide them with hay. It’s a tough time right now.”
Forbus said his family plans to rebuild and hopes fellow believers continue praying for fire victims. For now, they are simply trying to clean up and dispose of the debris on their property.
Forbus said, “We’re taking it one step at a time. God is in control and he still has us in Carbon. We’re going to stay here until he says otherwise.”
For information on wildfire relief, visit www.sbtexas.com. Charitable contributions denoting “wildfire relief” may be mailed to the SBTC’s disaster relief ministry at SBTC, PO Box 1988, Grapevine, TX 76099. All money donated will be used to assist the needs of fire victims.